‘Now I’ve got to move forward’
‘ I opened the Federal Database of Children Available for Adoption and realised right on that my search was over, – there they were, my children’.
20 years had passed before Elena said these words, 20 years of dreaming of a child’s voice to call her ‘mummy’. She was 21 when she married Dmitriy, the marriage ended in divorce though, – they had no children. Her second marriage lasted 10 years. Her husband had a couple of children of the first marriage and never wanted to adopt a child. Her final diagnosis was infertility.
She divorced Andrew when she was 36, and soon after she met her soulmate, someone who shared her aspiration and took a course at the Adoptive Parents School together with her. Her partner had a son of the first marriage, and told her he didn’t want any more children, which triggered Elena’s depression. She couldn’t see any way out. They parted after the New Year’s night, on the 1st of January 2018. On the 3rd of January, an old friend she hadn’t seen for 10 years called and asked her to come over. Since then Sasha and Elena have never been apart.
At the time he’d called Elena, Sasha was living by himself, with 3 dogs and a cat, two failed marriages behind, in a studio. The day they met they kept on talking and Sasha confessed he’d been trapped in his first love, Elena. So, they decided to rebuild their lives the way they themselves wanted to, which meant they would adopt orphaned children and become good parents to them.
After a course at the Adoptive Parents school, in December 2018, Sasha and Lena were certified to adopt two kids. They were advised to consider children with ‘restriction on parental rights’ status, which, in the Ulan – Ude region, implied further ‘deprivation of parental rights’ status. The operator suggested having a look at the brothers, Bogdan and Leva, born in 2013 and 2014.
‘Ours’, defined Elena, ‘they are exactly our kids’. And she went on to book tickets to meet them. By that time the boys had stayed at the orphanage for 6 months. Their mother had been abusing alcohol and had not cared about the children. Their father was unknown. Nobody had visited them.
The first visit was hard. The boys hardly respond to Lena and Sasha’s attempts to contact them. However, they signed an agreement in less than an hour, and visited the kids every day while the papers were being prepared.
On the eve of their departure, both Sasha and Lena felt so stressed out that they spiked a fever, but after taking some antipyretic, there they were, with their boys, to show them pictures of home, of the dogs and the cat, to tell them they could stay there if they’d like to. ‘What they had grasped of it all, I don’t know, they could hardly speak, our boys, the only thing we all wanted so badly was to be back home, all together.’
At the airport, we started to realise what it meant to be parents : the boys’ only desire was to destroy, anything. I knew they must have been scared, everyone was, even our dogs were when we got back home.
On our arrival in Moscow, in a taxi, all of a sudden Bogdan pointed at a ground handling vehicle and turned to me, ‘Mommy, what’s this thing?’ I froze: that was the first time he called me ‘mommy’.
Those had been hard times. The kids didn’t know what a bathroom is, they poured out shampoo bottles, unrolled toilet paper, broke and smashed whatever was in their reach, not to mention Bogdan’s urinating on the carpet, on the floor, on the bed, whenever he felt hurt or annoyed. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I sat them down and we started to talk. ‘That’s not your fault that you’d been sent to the orphanage, it happens sometimes, yes, and only because of grown-ups. Sasha and me, we’d been looking for you, and we’d found you’. And Bogdan goes,’For real? You mean it, looking for us?’ And I go, ‘Yes, Sasha and me, we’ve found you, and we’ve taken you to love you, and to raise you’. Since then on, Bogdan has never pissed again like he used to.
They’d tried to call Sasha ‘uncle’. I never let them, explaining that was wrong, just wrong. And they got it. I can only hear ‘daddy’ from them now.
In half a year, the boys had totally adapted to the new life. I had run a bath for them, I had calmed them down every night, I had lulled them to sleep. Once, Levushka, it was harder for him to adjust, remarked, ‘ You love the cat more than me’. – ‘Why do you think so?’ – ‘Cause the kitty’s yours’- ‘ And you’re my dear son Levushka’, I reassured him. And every day they'd kept on asking if I was going to collect them from the kindergarten.
In September 2019, the court deprived the boys’ biological mother of parental authority. Soon after, we called to Ulan-Ude to tell them we wanted a daughter. There were two girls. One appealed to me, the other one to Sasha. Finally, we had followed the advice that Ksjusha ( the one Sasha had liked) would be best for us.
Ksjusha was born in 2011, supposedly raised by her mother and grandmother, in fact she’d been left to herself while the two women had been abusing alcohol. It was the girl’s good luck that nothing bad had happened to her. She was placed in an orphanage while the Guardian Authority issued a request to restrict mother’s parental rights, the same status Bogdan and Leva used to have.
I took a plane to meet Ksjusha by myself, the boys were staying with Dad. Ksjusha turned out to be a smart kid, daring and intelligent. I was in panic though, thinking, ‘What am I doing? Do we need a third child? All these adaptation issues we’ve just gone through with the boys, all over again, just think of it!’ You know what? I shouldn’t have been worrying, at all. The time with Ksjusha was like a 10-day holiday, when we were getting to know each other going for a walk, or taking a ride in a local mini-bus. On my last day there, she looked in the direction of her house and said, ‘I need to get out of here!’
Ksjusha told me about horrendous things, the things no child should ever witness or experience, like grandma used to duct-tape her to a chair, and she was crying, and grandma would keep her like that while she was sleeping, drunk.
Now, Ksjusha is in the 2nd form. Sasha helps her with homework, she’s doing very well. Our daughter, our girl. I’ve got a family. We have common memories, common interests. We are happy together, and we are family to each other, and this is not about blood, this is about love and responsibility.